2016 Hero: Capybaras
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2016 Hero: Capybaras

Nominated for: showing us how to let go and explore our city.

Torontoist is reflecting on 2016 by naming our Heroes and Villains—the people, places, things, and ideas that have had the most positive and negative impacts on the city over the past 12 months. Cast your ballot until 11:59 p.m. on January 5. At noon on January 6, we’ll reveal your choices for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.


We’ve all dreamed of running away from home. What would it feel like to be truly free, to go to a place where we don’t have to worry about responsibilities or expectations, and can find ourselves?

And then a pair of capybaras showed us how it’s done.

In early summer, two capybaras from Texas were supposed to be introduced to their pen in the High Park Zoo. Instead, they broke loose and chased freedom. Their ambition—nay, their heart—could not be contained by paltry limits like “fences” or “rules.”

As reports came out that two capybaras were on the loose in High Park, we all did the same thing. We looked up the “Capybara” page on Wikipedia (“Huh, they’re the largest rodents!”), and we cheered them on. Capybara experts were consulted. The Toronto Star brought a capybara into its newsroom, the poor guy. A capybara tracker was hired by the city, who was like a nicer version of Quint from Jaws. Thirty people were involved in trying to capture the capybaras over five weeks, and amateurs set their own traps. There were over 50 capybara sightings throughout the GTA, most of them false; they became our local Bigfoot (Bigfeet?).

Toronto’s summer mascots of 2016 built on the fine work of the High Park Peacock in 2015, and the brief period of time when @norm was tolerable in 2014. Eventually Bonnie and Clyde—so named while they were on the lam—were caught, and brought to the High Park Zoo. All fantasy adventures must end.

If Bonnie and Clyde teach us anything—and of course they do—it’s that we should follow their example more often. We should let go and follow our spirit, even (especially!) if it frustrates a professional capybara tracker. We should explore our city with the same enthusiasm, and remind ourselves that there’s a little capybara in all of us, waiting to pursue what’s unexpected and new.